North America is a land of unparalleled natural beauty, from the spectacular rock formations of Utah and Arizona to the breathtaking Rocky Mountains and the sunny tropical isles of the Florida Keys. Across this stunning continent, there’s no shortage of outstanding scenery, crisscrossed by mile after mile of blacktop. Even though scenic roadways are plentiful throughout the United States and Canada, here are five that all travelers must see.
1. Overseas Highway, Florida
Traversing the Florida Keys for 113 miles, the Overseas Highway provides travelers with views of stunning tropical landscapes and panoramic ocean vistas. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, near Key Largo at milepost 102.5, is an undersea wonderland playing host to some 600 species of fish and other marine animals, making it popular with scuba divers and snorkelers. Bahia Honda State Park, farther south along the route, is home to beautiful beaches and countless opportunities for viewing local wildlife. It is an experience unlike any other.
© Florida Keys-Public Libraries
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2. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
Meandering through the heart of the southern Appalachians, the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway is world-renowned for its spectacular scenery. Travelers will be awestruck as they cross Linn Cove Viaduct, an engineering marvel winding around scenic Grandfather Mountain at 4,100 feet above sea level. Devil’s Courthouse, located near milepost 422, towers above the road at 5,720 feet high and provides brilliant panoramas of Tennessee, Georgia and both Carolinas. Even farther along the route at milepost 451.2 is scenic Waterrock Knob, an ideal place for watching sunrises and sunsets. It is nothing short of breathtaking.
© Brad Kebodeaux
3. State Route 12, Utah
Spanning 124 miles through Utah’s Garfield and Wayne counties, State Route 12 traverses some of the most picturesque and remote countryside in the entire United States. Notable sights include the spectacular Red Canyon, where an array of peculiarly eroded, vermilion-hued sandstone spires extend for four miles along both sides of the road, and the Head of the Rocks Overlook, where visitors can admire vast expanses of red- and cream-colored slickrock that were once sand dunes bordering a prehistoric inland sea. Also along the road is the Anasazi State Park Museum, where tourists can explore the remnants of an ancient Pueblo Native American village. In short, a drive along Utah Route 12 is truly one to remember.
© Wolfgang Staudt
4. Trail Ridge Road, Colorado
The highest continuously paved road in North America, Trail Ridge Road winds through Colorado’s spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park for 48 breathtaking miles, with views of forested moraines, towering peaks, and vast expanses of alpine tundra throughout. Rainbow Curve is a stunning overlook with incredible vistas of nine different peaks exceeding 10,000 feet in elevation, as is Gore Range Overlook, where travelers can marvel at the picturesque Never Summer Mountains. Along the way, vacationers can admire a diverse array of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, moose and white-feathered ptarmigans. It is like driving through a postcard.
© Todd Petrie
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5. Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada
Traversing 140 miles between Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, Canada, the scenic Icefields Parkway provides motorists, cyclists and hikers with some of the best views anywhere in the Canadian Rockies. The road provides splendid vistas of the Athabasca Glacier, where intrepid travelers can walk on the endless ice field and admire its glacier. Also a must-see are the many waterfalls that line the route, including Tangle Falls, a picturesque multi-tiered cascade adjacent to the roadway, not to mention the equally stunning Athabasca, Sunwapta and Bridal Veil Falls. The scenic overlook at Bow Summit provides views of the gorgeous Peyto Lake, famed for its rich turquoise-hued waters. It is not to be missed.
© David Fulmer
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Cover photo © Matthew Blouir